A coalition of service providers claims it will shake up the open source market by offering an alternative to the larger vendors. It also aims to counter the claims made by Microsoft that open source is the more expensive option.

The Open Source Consortium, a grouping of more than 60 companies has been established to offer, what it claims is an unbiased "proprietary-vendor free" voice for all organisations contemplating an Open Source roll-out.

The consortium, created following demand from areas such as the public sector, hopes to bring impartial clarity to the debate. OSC executive Mark Taylor said that the consortium would give smaller companies a chance to compete with the likes of IBM and Sun for Open Source contracts. "It’s all about the smaller players. We want to open up markets that they don’t have access to."

He stressed that it would not compete with some of the existing open source groups which are more concerned with standards. Taylor said that the consortium would aim to counteract the FUD about open source - particularly that thrown up by Microsoft. "We’ve seen figures purporting to offer the total cost of ownership on Windows and Linux, which show Windows as the cheaper option - but those are from figures supplied by Microsoft." He said that the consortium would promote the facts of the issue through its relationship with the National Computing Centre.

Taylor said that the OSC would offer four services: strategic consultancy, deployment consultancy, training and support. The consortium already has close links with public sector organisation, SOCITM, he claimed. The group will look at several technical areas: for example, on the use of Apache and about making websites "browsable" by open source browsers.

While, the consortium is being officially launched today, the group has been working quietly in the background for some time. Taylor said that the OSC was trailblazing for open source use was being monitored by Open Source groups in other countries. “We know that France and Germany are both looking at what we’re doing, so although it will be UK only at first, we hope to take the concept elsewhere. We’re well ahead of other countries, there’s not even the equivalent of the OSC in the US,” he said.